Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Learning to Dream

Okay, hammy title for a post, but seeing as my friends in the USA are celebrating Martin Luther King (MLK) day over there I thought it might be a good idea to lock in to.  Why?  Because MLK was a visionary not only in the way he thought the world could be, but in his methodology and the way he sought to change things.

In learning we often get so hung up on the way things are and the way to change them that we're almost as bad as the people we fight against.  A great example of this came from a thread I read on recently where several educational experts proclaimed it was better to have no elearning than it was to have bad elearning.  Once upon a time learning became so focussed on learning objectives that if we didn't clearly state them and write them up three times then the whole of our learning was worthless.  The point we miss when we get overly prescriptive about learning is the same as people get who ignore it altogether; we need to relax our rules a little and worry less about getting it technically right, because right is only a matter of opinion.

I know I know, you've heard me fire off before about how knowledge is overrated but this here is my dream so hear me out.  Learning is lifelong, it's pervasive and in everything we do.  We learn as we go through life and we learn that the more we find out the more we realise we do not know.  What we consider as fact is often the popular opinion of the time and a true learning mind will always open itself up to the possiblities that there are other ways to do things and other 'rights'.

If going through life without learning is ignorance, then imposing rules on that learning that might one day be proved to be (if not wrong) less right than they currently are is another type of ignorance.  And the big takeway from MLK day for me is that you can't fight ignorance with ignorance.  If you want to bring learning into an organisation that's been in the dark then you need to show them the light and encourage them; even if it means letting them make some mistakes and working through those with them.

Recently at a #pkmchat there was raised the idea of mistakes and how we view mistakes and can learn from them.  Funny thing is that we often think very negatively of mistakes and failure can be seen as an example of a big mistake.  I tried to say then and will express now that mistakes and even failure aren't necessary bad things.  There's an old adage that you win some and your learn some, every failure, wrong step or mistake has the opportunity for you to learn and apply something new - the opportunities are in everything we do.  We can apply this to workplaces that may not think of themselves as a learning organisation, before we condemn them for a lack of learning policies, look and see what they do when someone gets things wrong.  If they are using that beyond a punitive measure then maybe they're already embracing the idea of learning.

One of the common misconceptions that exists in many learning circles is that learning only becomes learning if you write it down or record it somewhere.  I don't know when or how we could so closed on our ideas about learning but this simply isn't the case.  Read some fiction - go on read for pleasure - I guarantee that at some point in the future something will come up in conversation that relates to it (yes, even in sci-fi) and you'll either share that or make a connection in your head.  My theory on learning is one of evolving - your thoughts and ideas continue to be shaped througout your life as long as you allow your mind to keep open to it.

So with my usual mish-mash of ideas in my head, here's my learning dream:

I'd like to see a world where we embrace learning to its fullest, a world where the most successful organisations embrace a culture and attitude of learning where it's less about getting the learning right and more about the learning itself.  A culture where people are free to learn in their own way and a culture where every wrong step or mistake is viewed as a potential opportunity to evolve and learn both for individuals and the organisations.  Learning would be no longer buried as the poor cousin to performance, but seen as the way in which we get the most from ourselves, our people and the organisation itself to unlock the true potential we hold as both individuals and groups.  Perhaps most importantly of all a culture where learning, like the best things in life, is shared and celebrated.

If that's not for you that's fine - I'm sure there's plenty of grammatical errors in there for you to correct me on.

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